of an event occurring in real-time significantly inhibits the learning of the underlying concept (Brasell, 1987).
Both bridging and the interactive demonstration strategies have been shown to be effective at helping students permanently overcome misconceptions. This finding is a major breakthrough in teaching science, since so much research indicates that students often can parrot back correct answers on a test that might be erroneously interpreted as displaying the eradication of a misconception, but the same misconception often resurfaces when students are probed weeks or months later (see Mestre, 1994, for a review).
One of the best examples of translating research into practice is Minstrell’s (1982, 1989, 1992) work with high school physics students. Minstrell uses many research-based instructional techniques (e.g., bridging, making students’ thinking visible, facilitating students’ ability to restructure their own knowledge) to teach physics for understanding. He does this through classroom discussions in which students construct understanding by making sense of physics concepts, with Minstrell playing a coaching role. The following quote exemplifies his innovative and effective instructional strategies (Minstrell, 1989:130–131):
Students’ initial ideas about mechanics are like strands of yarn, some unconnected, some loosely interwoven. The act of instruction can be viewed as helping the students unravel individual strands of belief, label them, and then weave them into a fabric of more complete understanding. An important point is that later understanding can be constructed, to a considerable extent, from earlier beliefs. Sometimes new strands of belief are introduced, but rarely is an earlier belief pulled out and replaced. Rather than denying the relevancy of a belief, teachers might do better by helping students differentiate their present ideas from and integrate them into conceptual beliefs more like those of scientists.
Describing a lesson on force, Minstrell (1989:130–131) begins by introducing the topic in general terms:
Today we are going to try to explain some rather ordinary events that you might see any day. You will find that you already have many good ideas that will help explain those events. We will find that some of our ideas are similar to those of the scientist, but in other cases our ideas might be different. When we are finished with this unit, I expect that we will have a much clearer idea of how scientists explain those events, and I know that you will feel more comfortable about your explanations…A key idea we are going to use is the idea of force. What does the idea of force mean to you?
Many views emerge from the ensuing classroom discussion, from the typical “push or pull” to descriptions that include sophisticated terms, such as en-